Nebraska’s Sahara (5×8 – 4/26/12)




We don’t often revisit floods in the Upper Midwest once the water disappears. But it turns out last year’s tremendous flooding on the Missouri River has left a desert in the breadbasket of eastern Nebraska.

The stormchaser at — known to us only as Mike — has posted unbelievable pictures of the the post-flood debris, primarily tons of sand left behind.

It’s everywhere, and the wind only makes it worse. And yet, some crops are growing around it. You put up with a lot when you’re a farmer.


A new video that leads to the question nobody in a position of power ever seems to want to answer: How is an abandoned house worth more than one in which someone lives?

Forgotten from Michael Cameneti on Vimeo.

Elsewhere on the foreclosure front, the Pioneer Press reports the days appear to be numbered for JT’s Hamburgers, a West St. Paul eatery from the 1950s.


Alex Balluff, of Duluth, beat the odds. He was given only a 1 percent chance or survival when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver in 2009, the Duluth News Tribune reports. He’ll be a guest of the Minnesota Timberwolves at their last game tonight, and maybe shoot a few baskets with our local NBA heroes. His parents will take a lot of pictures because very soon, Alex won’t remember any of it.

And how’s your life going, person who wouldn’t stop to see if Alex was OK after you hit him?


“I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights.”

If you’re a Dr. Seuss fan, you may recall that line from Yertle the Turtle.

It’s at the heart of a kerfuffle in British Columbia between a teacher and a school administrator who, the CBC is reporting, vetoed the use of the quote in a classroom. The teacher’s union in the district has been in a contract dispute.

The superintendent calls the issue “a red herring” and says he doesn’t care if Yertle the Turtle gets read to schoolchildren, as long as it’s not part of a political message. The teacher’s union, obviously, disagrees:

“It’s not even just limiting the teachers’ right to freedom of expression,” she said. “It limits students’ access to the world around them and what’s going on in current events. And I think that’s the purpose of public school, to educate and use what’s happening around them as teachable moments.”

But Stigant said if teachers want to talk to students about labour disputes in general as part of a curriculum, that’s one thing. To expose their captive audience to their own job issues through discussions, posters or buttons is going too far.

“I would not think it was appropriate for my child to go to an art class and be engaged in instruction and conversation about political rights and disputes and that kind of thing. That’s not the teachers’ job.”


Norwegians have been getting a bad rap from this side of the ocean for their patient trial of the man charged with slaughtering children at a camp last year. The National Review went so far as to say it’s Norway that’s on trial.

The killer, Anders Behring Breivik, says a popular song in the country is “brainwashing” children. He singled out singer Lillebjoern Nilsen as a “good example of a Marxist who infiltrated the cultural sector, writes music that is used to brainwash children”. One of his songs, Children of the Rainbow, is a Norwegian version of American folk music singer Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Race.

So thousands of Norwegians answered him by gathering in Oslo in the pouring rain. To sing.

Bonus I: Every other Friday afternoon, we get nagged to fill out our time sheets for the people in payroll. If you’re reading this, bosses (and I think we’re going to learn something here), I have this suggestion:

Bonus II: Remember when Minnesota had mandatory emissions testing? Is it time to go back to it? Seen yesterday on Concord St., in South Saint Paul.



A medical debt-collection firm used aggressive tactics to extract advance payments from patients, according to a highly critical report issued this week by Attorney General Lori Swanson. Collectors sometimes made bedside visits or approached people waiting for emergency room care. Today’s Question: What limits ought to govern the behavior of medical debt collectors?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology, behavioral neuroscience and music at McGill University. He is the author of “This is Your Brain on Music.”

Second hour: The media today is filled with reports of the failing American education system – low test scores, poor graduation rates and the need for reform. But many reports show that students are actually performing and graduating at higher rates then ever before, so where’s the disconnect? Paul Farhi argues that poor media coverage and sweeping generalizations about American schools are presenting a false picture that may have negative effects for our education system.

Third hour: Celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito once claimed on national television that restaurants have a 90% failure rate which left some industry watchers and owners wondering where he got that statistic. A couple of leading studies show the failure rate closer to 23%, about on par with other small businesses, yet that 90% number is ingrained in both insiders’ and conumers’ minds as truth. Such a false notion makes opening a restaurant an uphill climb. What is the reality behind the notions and numbers of the restaurant industry?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm):Cancer doctor David Agus, speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California about his new book, “The End of Illness.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: War crimes and international justice.

Second hour: The Great Divergence. Plus Ball Four’s Jim Bouton, 50 years after his first Major League win.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Brandt Williams will have the latest on the Amy Senser trial. Her husband, former Viking Joe Senser, continues his testimony today.

  • nt

    Don’t they plan trees for erosion control? A comparison would be nice.

  • To read that story about Alex and his family touched my heart and took me back to six years ago when my son was struck by a hit-and-run driver along a Faribault street. Unlike Alex, my then 12-year-old was not seriously injured. But we don’t know what the long-term impact will be on his health. To this day, I wonder how that driver could continue on without stopping. It is so difficult to understand.

    To Alex and his family, I admire your courage and your determination and your ability to turn something negative into a positive by talking to others about drinking and driving. To think that, by your actions, you may keep this from happening to another family is truly a gift.

  • BenCh

    //Don’t they plan trees for erosion control? A comparison would be nice.

    If you are talking about the sand dunes in Nebraska, it has nothing to do with erosion. In fact, it is the opposite- deposition! The problem isn’t that the ground is being eroded away, it is that a lot of sand was put on top of the land (similar to snow- which can also form drifts or dunes). In reality, there is nothing you can do about the sand except let nature take its course (or go in and try to shovel it all away costing a lot of money and really not accomplishing much).

    One interesting thing I would like to know is where did the sand come from? Was it naturally from the river or from all the sand bags?

  • I’m wondering the same thing as BenCh – is that sand from the sand bags? I don’t believe the river deposited it or we’d have seen this in other Missouri flooding events, but I don’t know. Iowa better look out, though.

  • Mark Snyder

    // Remember when Minnesota had mandatory emissions testing? Is it time to go back to it?

    Yes, I think so. While school buses were not part of that program, there are plenty of older cars and trucks on the roads that are not being maintained. And with yesterday’s news report about rising particulate matter levels in the metro that are largely attributed to vehicles, it’s clear that we need to start doing something to address this and quickly, especially if EPA tightens the smog standards as expected. VOC (hydrocarbon) emissions from vehicles are a direct contributor to smog formation.

  • kennedy

    Re #4: That Dr. Seuss is a troublemaker. I remember controversy regarding another of his books several years back. There was a push from logging interests to ban The Lorax from school.

    I do think that teachers should manage their classroom for learning and try to keep from involving students in the labor dispute. A better Seuss story for this may be the Zax.

  • Jeff

    // “In reality, there is nothing you can do about the sand except let nature take its course (or go in and try to shovel it all away costing a lot of money and really not accomplishing much).”

    Actually, you can do something – you can help nature. You can put dune fence (what we call snow fence here in Minnesota) up parallel to the road. The fence will slow the wind down just before it crosses the road and will drop the sand. As the dune builds up around the fence, you can move the fence up to the top of the dune where it will keep getting higher. My grandfather did this on the sand dunes outside of his ocean beach home. The dunes gradually became 30 feet high and provided better storm protection than the dunes on other parts of the island that were made by the Army Corps of Engineers and their bulldozers. The slope of the fence-built dunes is very gradual which helps disperse the energy of the waves so that they don’t erode the dune as much as steep dunes. He also found the perfect plants to plant on the dunes — dune grass and poison ivy. 🙂 Both have long roots that help stabilize the dune. The poison ivy keeps the people who ignore the “stay off the dunes” signs from disrupting the sand and thereby weakening the dune.

  • JP

    I work with parents in an early childhood program. For Dr. Suess’s birthday we handed out Dr. Suess quotes. I asked parents to put them up somewhere that they would see it regularly at home and then do a journal entry about whether it was influencing their perspective on life. Other staff liked them so much that they ended up getting their own copies. I see them all over.

    They say things like “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” The guy is not exactly Vladimir Lenin he just wants people to value themselves and the world around them.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re Nebraska’s Sahara: Much of the planet is going to have a bit more sand blowing around as climate change progresses.

    Re Fighting Hate with Music: In Norway, the society responds to a recent horrific tragedy by a transparent trial and children singing in the rain.

    Israel responds to the 65 year old memory of a horrific tragedy by imprisoning Palestinians and setting off the air raid alarms on holocaust day.

    Which culture is healthier?

  • Wow – talk about a cheap shot, Jim. Israel isn’t “imprisoning Palestinians” because of a 65 year old tragedy. What a complete misrepresentation of the terrible situation in the Holy Land. A bit anti-Semitic, to say the least.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Drae – I thought you would get it. My mistake.

    An otherwise compassionate culture rationalizes apartheid to secure their own state and be sure that “never again.”

    Clear now?

    And I think you mean anti-Israel. Arabs are Semites too.

  • Bob Moffitt

    Mark Synder is right on with his comment on air pollution and the some of the older clunkers on the road today. While school buses were exempt from the vehicle inspection program of the past, there is a program today — Project Green Fleet — which will retrofit old diesel engine school buses with modern pollution control devices at virtually no cost to the school or bus company.

  • And yet you are the one asking which culture is healthier, Jim. Which one respects women, homosexuals and free thinkers? Don’t look to me to defend the right of any regime to brutalize their people and their neighbors – I’m pretty equal opportunity on that, from ChiComs to Hamas.

    Please pardon me, though. This issue won’t get resolved here and I have personal business to attend.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Drae – “And yet you are the one asking which culture is healthier, Jim.”

    Accept I was clearing comparing Norway with Israel, not Israel with it’s even more barbarous neighbors.

    Nice try though :- )

  • Bob Collins

    Move along now.

    Hey, how about that sand?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – Sand? Did somebody say sand? We will bury the entire state of the usurping, pastrami sandwich eating sons of pigs under the sands of our majestic arab desert! ( We figured out it’s too difficult to push them into the sea. Plus, a lot of them know how to swim.)